Monthly Archives: February 2012

Presidential Politics and Romance Novels: A Treatise on Virtue

I’m not really on the ball.  If I were, I would have written days (weeks!) ago about the kerfuffle that erupted when an important donor for one of the presidential candidates joked about the good ol’ days when women would rely on an aspirin held between their knees for contraception.  All of the gory details can be found here.  Yes, we are still going round and round about this outrageous and offensive federal mandate for free contraception for everybody, no matter what.  Of course, the comment that raised so many eyebrows is about a long-lost period when women relied on self-control and virtue instead of pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures to avoid unplanned pregnancy.

One of my new-found favorite bloggers, Hyacinth Girl, had a wonderful analysis of the dust-up:

I’ve been listening to the coverage of Santorum’s big donor’s Aspirin statement. Since when has it been controversial to suggest that women used to value chastity? I mean, we don’t have a universal human right to be whores. Or do we? I can never remember. I’m not calling sexually active women whores, by the way. It just isn’t a big deal that Foster Friess makes a reference to the days when sexual promiscuity wasn’t celebrated or considered inevitable…Maybe we should take an honest look at where our society has gone with all this “progress” and how empty we’ve all become. I see a lot of sad, lonely, joyless people who have everything, including anyone they desire, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Once upon a time, Western civilization used to strive toward virtue: that is, moral excellence or traits which promote moral or ethical uprightness.  In the modern era, virtue is mocked, and morality is rationalized down to nothing.  “What’s right for me may not be right for you.”  It certainly does leave a person empty.

Rush Limbaugh had some very interesting remarks about the aspirin situation:

You boil it all down, what you end up with is something very simple.  Liberals want life without consequences.  Fail at your job, no consequences, doesn’t matter, there’s all kinds of government help.  Fail at being a father, no problem, there’s no consequences.  Sex, whenever you want it, no matter the outcome, no problem, we’ve got abortion, we got birth control pills, we got condoms, ah, no consequences.  And without consequences, there’s no virtue.  And that’s all Foster Friess was talking about.  Simply talking about women with virtue, pure and simple.  And the fact that so few people understand that is shocking.  Sad, but shocking.

So, as I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been reading historical romance novels.  This is in part, I think, a reaction to the incredibly depressing, gritty high-brow fiction out there.   As a break from all of that, I’ve consumed perhaps a dozen simple, breezy romance novels.  Most of them were mediocre at best; a couple were just awful.  A handful, though, were quite compelling with characters one becomes attached to.  (I have a strong feeling at least one post about the merits of historical romance novels for intelligent women is in the making.)

Aside from some easy entertainment, the novels do leave the reader thinking about virtue, believe it or not: justice, temperance, and fortitude.  With their settings in the extreme confines of Victorian morality, the novels cast a harsh spotlight on just how far we have “progressed” from even the palest sense of virtue.  Considering the fact that the government will sacrifice Constitutional liberties so that every woman in America can have free love without consequences, I wonder how we will ever claw our way back to virtue.  Where would we start?

Here’s a crazy thought: how about with the concept of intimacy and courtship?  In the olden days, using someone’s given name (certainly can’t use the archaic term “Christian name”!), was a sign of great intimacy.  In 2 of my favorites of the fluff novels, when the heroine finally uses the hero’s name rather than his title or a polite form of address, it is a turning point in their relationship.  As an aside, the Christian names in those 2 cases were Jude and Adrian.  Sigh.  Moving on.  If you need confirmation from a more respectable source for the appropriate use of names, look to Jane Austen.  (Regency, not Victorian, I know.)  You know, “Mr. Knightley” and “Mr. Darcy.”

Such a small thing, but it really caught my attention.  You see, it really vexes me when complete strangers use my first name.  For instance, where does a sales clerk or waiter get off calling me by my name when he or she hands me back my credit card?  Once when I was driving on to my local military base, the sentry at the gate checked my ID, reading the name I suppose, and then waved me on with a, “Have a nice day, (my name inserted here.)”  A simple “ma’am” would do very nicely.  I do not want to be “Miss Suzy” or “Miss Lori” to the children in my neighborhood.  It’s Mrs., thank you very much.  I want to be the one to allow that familiarity that comes with using my name.  I want there to be a clear distinction between acquaintanceship and intimacy.

Of course, it might be awkward for a Miss Woodhouse to hook up ever-so-casually with a Mr. Knightley.

The idea is that women (and men) might consider holding something back so the other will have to work to deserve that intimacy.  Barbaric, I know, denying instant gratification.  And yet, that little bit of self-discipline doesn’t cost taxpayers anything–unlike the contraceptives the government insists are a “right.”

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Valentine’s Day. Oh Goodie!

I have no objections to Valentine’s Day in principle.  I think it’s rather nice to take a day to remember romance and sweetness and courtship.  Heaven knows, there’s far too little of any of that around these days.  What gets to me is the practice of Valentine’s Day.

  • It’s really nobody’s fault, but the date of Valentine’s Day, February 14th, does nothing to help matters.  If you live in most places in the northern hemisphere, February weather is typically dreary and cold.  Cold ranging from a damp chill to frostbite on exposed skin.  Am I the only one who would much rather tuck in under flannel sheets than satin ones?  Lacy satin or silk lingerie?  Umm…no thanks.  How about something in red flannel or fleece instead?  Oh, and socks, too, since my feet get cold.  You see, wearing anything from Victoria’s Secret would require me to hike the thermostat up at least 7 or 8 degrees, and I don’t see that happening.
  • The other bad thing about February is that it’s one of the sickest months on the calendar.  If you have kids, you know what I’m saying.  Your little ones are sharing a whole lot more that cute little Disney valentines with their classmates.  It is a challenge to focus on romance when at least one person in your household is stricken with a cold, stomach bug, strep throat, flu, sinus headache, and so on.  Parents would do much better sending their kids to school on Valentine’s Day with mini bottles of hand sanitizer to share with their chums instead of cards and candies.
  • Over the last few years, I have developed a real loathing for greeting cards.  This is the case for cards for any occasion, Valentine’s Day included.  Oh, the melodrama.  “Through all the years together, your love has remained unconditional.”  Really.  No ups and downs, no quarrels or disappointments?  And I run far away from anything that rhymes: “Love is a miracle, sweet as can be, that will always remain a complete mystery.”  Ahem.  I have reverted back to making my own cards like I used to when I was a kid and couldn’t get to the store to buy one.  Or I simply write a note.  Handwritten notes are by nature more intimate and show actual heart-felt emotion, so this is a good thing.  I don’t write poetry.  Sometimes I find a photograph that will remind Darling Husband of a sweet memory.  Or I’ll write a letter like I used to when we were just dating.  It may not be epic poetry written in ornate, looping script, but it’s sincere.
  • Gifts for Valentine’s Day are tricky.  A lot of men probably agonize over what to give that is both romatic and perceived as valuable.  Jewelry implies a serious commitment, and lingerie means something else entirely.  Stuffed animals…is there a woman who really wants a pink teddy bear??  Flowers are lovely, but you do know that the price of those arrangements mysteriously skyrockets around February 14th, don’t you?  For women, the options are limited.  Men don’t really want boxers with hearts on them–or heart anything for that matter.  I suppose some men might appreciate chocolate.  Let’s face it.  Ladies really have to get creative.

I tucked Darling Husband’s gift into his briefcase today.  It wasn’t at all expensive (free, in fact), but it did cost me a lot. It was terribly personal–a small piece of myself and so, a risk.  I’m more excited about his reaction to it than if I had given him something really elaborate and pricey.  Here’s my dilemma, though, his birthday falls fairly close to Valentine’s Day, which falls close on the heel of Christmas.  That results in a string of gifts.  How will I top this gift?  It’s likely I won’t.  Sorry, dear.  I promise I won’t get you a rhyming birthday card, though.

 

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Religious Freedom…Where??

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, 1982:

Article 36. Religious freedom

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.

And yet, we know how freedom of religion plays out in Communist China.  According to a 2010 US State Department report:

The Department of State, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. consulates general … consistently urged the government to expand the scope of religious freedom in keeping with the rights codified in the constitution and internationally recognized norms…

The constitution protects religious freedom for all citizens but, in practice, the government generally enforced laws, administrative orders, and other policies that restrict religious freedom. Religious groups were vulnerable to action by local officials who often regulate through administrative orders.

The Constitution of the USSR, Article 52:

 Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda.

We know the reality of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, though, don’t we?  In fact, we even held Congressional hearings (find transcripts here) addressing religious persecution in the USSR, and we heard testimony such as this:

Religious groups do not have the status of independent public organizations under Soviet law…The law is structured to prevent the clergy or hierarchy from exercising effective control over church affairs. At the same time, it allows state officials to manipulate church activities and policies…

It is in this context that the Soviet attitude toward religion can be readily understood. To the extent to which religion can serve the ruling class it will be used. To the extent to which it interferes with the objectives of the ruling class it will be suppressed.  In today’s  Soviet Union these persons (the common people) may engage in religious observance as long as that is done in a place authorized by the government, at a time authorized by the government, and in a format authorized by the government.

The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

So how did we, the great bastion of freedom, the “shining city on a hill,”  get to this point:

The Department of Health and Human Services’ new rule requires almost all employers to provide insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacient drugs. Its religious exemption will not cover most Catholic institutions like health systems, universities, and charities.

The announcement prompted a strong outcry from religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations, as well as Catholic individuals running secular businesses, who say that the requirement would force them to violate their religious beliefs.

However, despite the storm of protest, the Obama administration has refused to broaden the exemption to the mandate.

Just asking…

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